Yossi’s Wine Page

Archive for the month “June, 2010”

18 June 2010 – Visit to Villa Wilhelma

I received this notice by email a while ago, but wasn’t really considering going (no room on the shelf) until Dina told me that our friends Dario & Jenny asked if we were interested in going together. Since I hadn’t tried their wines for a couple of years, and since visiting a winery on Friday morning is much more fun that cleaning up around the house, we decided to go.

When we got there I went down to the basement where the winery used to be, passing these interesting displays along the way, and it still smelled very musty.

Apparently the basement flooded during the winter rains and they had to move everything upstairs. It’s not quite as quaint as in the basement, but it is definitely more attractive, though we did not see the actual winery (crusher, tanks, barrels, etc.) this time.

I was a bit put off when I found out that there was a steep (in my opinion) charge for tastings. Many wineries have started charging for tastings in order to discourage kids who go from winery to winery looking for free drinks, and that’s reasonable since the fees generally don’t exceed about NIS 25, and almost always the fee is applied to any purchases made. At Villa Wilhelma the tasting fee is NIS 45 and it is not applied to purchases.

Villa Wilhelma has added a small café/restaurant since our last visit so we sat down at an outdoor table on the porch and ordered a tasting and a cheese platter to share. The cheese platter was quite generous and included three soft cheeses, five hard cheeses, a green salad, a plate of fresh cut vegetable sticks for munching and dipping, and a basket of bread.

While we were attacking the cheeses, all of which were good, Motti Goldman, the owner of the winery, started pouring us our tastings.

He began with the Grand Chardonnay that we had all enjoyed from an earlier vintage. The 2007 was similar, though Dario thinks it was fruitier than in the past.

Next we tried the 2007 Pinotage. This is a variety that I rather enjoy, and only the third I have found in Israel (after Barkan and Binyamina). The Villa Wilhelma Pinotage, despite its rather unusual brownish color, is a delightfully light and fruity table wine, with a medium finish. Slightly chilled it was very refreshing. At NIS 50, I consider this a wine a good deal, and with the 3+1 sale it was a real bargain.

The 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon was next in line. While this was a very pleasant medium bodied Cabernet, none of us was overly impressed, and in our opinion it was not worth the NIS 120 price tag.

Motti then poured us tastings of the 2005 Timeless 917 and 1243 Cabernet-Merlot blends. The two wines are the same blend and vintage, the only difference being barrel time – 917 and 1243 days respectively. The 917 was nicely integrated with a very pleasant spicy finish, but it was overshadowed by the excellent 1243, which was a fuller bodied wine with subtle fruit and a longer finish. Dina, who has much more sensitive taste buds than I, detected hints of strawberry. Interestingly, we did not notice the smoky bitterness that Rogov detected when he tasted and reported on this wine in February. Both of these wines were well out of our price range, but we quite enjoyed sampling them.

We finished up with a taste of the Floral Blanc semi-dry white blend. This was a nice little wine that left a pleasant flavor in our mouths for the ride home.

In the end we bought some of the Grand Chardonnay and Pinotage, both of which will be very welcome on hot summer days.

17 June 2010 – Tasting Evening at Katamon Winery

Since meeting Avital Goldner just under a year ago, he has become a friend and one of our favorite winemakers. Not only is he a delightful fellow, he also makes some marvelous wines.

At last Thursday’s event, there was a good turnout, and I was quite gratified that a few folks from my mailing list showed up. Curiously, I even met someone from Har Adar who was not on my list (he is now). Yaron Rabanyan of the Har Adar winery was amazed at how Avital can make such good wine in such a small space. Yaron designed his house around his winery, and Avital’s space is more like a large closet. Yaron was particularly impressed by Katamon’s Grand Vin blend, as am I.

As he did last year, Avital laid out an impressive spread of homemade salads and cheese spreads. Dina & I especially liked the cucumber-yogurt salad (if I was more sophisticated I suppose I’d call it tzatziki), that was liberally laced with garlic.

We also finally met Avital’s wife Hanna, without whom there could not be a Katamon winery. Behind every married man with a passion to make wine there must be a supportive wife like Hanna who understands and accepts that her husband is just a little bit crazy and is willing to go along with it. While Avital was trying to be a good host, Hanna was running around trying to keep things more or less organized, taking it all in stride and enjoying the chaos.

Other than the 2006 Grand Vin blend (Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon-Cabernet Franc), Avital’s daughters were poring generous tastings of  Katamon’s 2005 Merlot, and 2007 and 2009 Chardonays. Because of Shmita, there was no 2008 vintage.

From earlier blog entries you can see that the Merlot was not so much to my liking when I tasted it last August, but that I suspected that it would improve. I am pleased that my hunch was correct. I’m still not crazy about the Merlot, but it is definitely smoother and more integrated than it was last year. I would guess that it will continue to improve and that its peak is still a year or two off.

The 2006 Chardonnay was still as a remembered it, and the 2009 was very similar, though a bit lighter. Both were very pleasant.

For this event, Avital offered all of his wines at what I consider to be bargain prices for wines of this quality (NIS 70 for the whites and 80 for the reds), and sales were brisk.

3 June 2010 – Judean Hills Wineries Fair at the Jerusalem Botanic Gardens

Not being able to attend this event last year I was particularly looking forward to this year’s fair. In particular I wanted to try wines from some of the Jerusalem area wineries that I have not visited recently or at all. I was, therefore, somewhat disappointed that Clos de Gat, Mony, Tzora, Flam, Ella Valley, and Karmei Yosef were not in attendance. On the other hand, two wineries – Bar Giora and Nevo – were completely new to me. All in all, about 12 wineries were represented.

The Jerusalem Botanic Gardens, with its picturesque pond, was a lovely setting for the event, and the weather was agreeable too, being not too warm after a rather hot day. The setup, however, left something to be desired, with all of the winery tables located in close proximity to each other. Spreading the tables out into the area near the pond would have alleviated the crowding.

Aside from many interesting and enjoyable wines, it was fun to meet friends that we don’t see often enough.

We were very pleasantly surprised to see Shlomi & Hila Tzadok of the Ben-Hanna winery since we had been told that they would not be exhibiting. Shlomi makes an outstanding varietal Petit Verdot, but there was none left by the time we got to their table. Apparently someone bought the lot early on. Fortunately there was still some of Shlomi’s Shalem, a Bordeaux style blend that goes down easy and asks for more.

Yossi Yitach of the Katlav winery has also become a good friend over the years, and we received a warm welcome from him along with generous tastings of his Wadi Katlav blend that Dina & I both like very much. Yossi’s wife Malki had also come along for the fun, and we were delighted to see her.

Unfortunately Avi Yehuda was down with a bad back that evening, but his good friend Yossi Shtieber stepped in to man the Yehuda winery’s table. Dina & I are big fans of Avi and his wines, so we tasted a bit even though we are quite familiar with them. From the 2007 vintage my favorites are the Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot-Shiraz blend and the varietal Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2007 Shiraz is also delightful, and much lighter than the sublime 2006.

As I reached Sea Horse’s table, Ze’ev Dunie greeted me with “No more Take Two.” Take Two, a blend of Zinfandel, Primitivo, Carignan, and Petite Sirah, was my favorite from this winery but it’s not available any more. Instead I sampled Ze’ev’s new Roman blend of Grenache, Sirah, and Morvedre. It’s different from anything I’ve had before and I rather liked it.

We also got a warm welcome from Shuki Yashuv of the Agur winery. Every year Shuki makes a red blend that he calls Kessem, and every year it’s a bit different. The 2008 Kessem is a Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. It is lighter in body than previous vintages of this wine, making it ideal for warm summer evenings. I did not try Agur’s Blanca and Rosa wines this time as I am already familiar with them and can wholeheartedly recommend them. The Blanca, a blend of Viognier and Riesling, is particularly nice.

These are the other wines that I found particularly interesting or enjoyable.

Anatot Sangiovese 2007 – A most interesting wine and one of the few of this variety that I have found in Israel. My feeling is that this wine still needs some time for the flavors to integrate. I would also like to try it again with food since I have a feeling that a hearty meal would bring out this wine’s character.

Nevo Chevoux 2007 is a very enjoyable Cabernet Sauvignon. This was my first encounter with the Nevo winery but it surely will not be my last.

Sternbach Nahal Chaklil 2007 – A medium bodied Cabernet Sauvignon with soft tannins. A nice red for the warm weather.

Tzuba Metzuda 2006 – A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. So far this is my favorite wine from Tzuba, although I have yet to try their Shiraz.

23 April 2010 – 2nd Annual Home Wineries Fair at the Sorek Winery

In my humble opinion, this year’s home wineries fair organized by the Soreq winery in Moshav Tal Shachar, was even more successful than last year’s event. While I thoroughly enjoyed it last year, the fair was better organized this time and the wines were markedly better. My thanks to Nir Shacham and his team for organizing such an enjoyable event.

My 11 year old son, Daniel (who is developing into quite a fineschmecker) came with me this time, and he very much enjoyed it too. A good many of the exhibitors were impressed with him too, and they appreciated his candor. I suppose it’s easier for an 11 year old to “I don’t like this wine” than it is for us older folks who tend to be less blunt.

Some 35 wineries (don’t hold me to that) were exhibiting their wines. We tasted wines from “only” 23 wineries, but that was more than enough. At least one winery made only one barrel, while others produced up to several thousand bottles.

We decided to start by finding the few white wines available before sampling the reds. Interestingly, two of the four whites (plus one rose) were dry Gewürztraminers. I am not a big fan of this variety, especially since the wines are usually too sweet for my taste, but these were both rather pleasant. One was from the Sultziner winery, and the other from the Tidhar winery. Tidhar also makes a Rose that both of us liked very much. Made from Cabernet Sauvignon left for just a few hours on the skins, this off-dry wine was fruity and very pleasant in Friday’s heat. At NIS 60 I considered this a good deal, and we took a bottle. I expect it will go quite nicely with trout or denis.

The other whites we found were both Sauvignon Blancs from the Ye’elim winery. One was a straight SB that was not to my taste (I like my SB very crisp and dry), and the other had mint leaves in it. The flavor of the minted SB was definitely interesting, but it’s not something I’d go out of my way to try again.

On to the reds. First of all, let me say that all of the wines we tried were drinkable and many were excellent. This is in contrast to last year when I found not so many good wines, and more than a few that I considered undrinkable.

To keep this posting from getting too long (and because my notes are not all that comprehensive or clear) I’ll just mention my favorites (in alphabetical order by winery).

A”A Winery Cabernet Sauvignions 2008. The winery is named after the two winemakers both with the letter “A” as their first initial. A”A made two Cabernets from the same grapes and harvest, but using different techniques. One is made from free run juice and other from pressed grapes. One is aged first with chips and the other in a barrel, and then they are switched. Don’t ask me which is which. Both wines were quite good, though I preferred the pressed one. Apparently the winemakers thought that was the better wine too since it had a higher price tag.

Argov Merlot 2003. I am generally not a lover of Merlot, but this wine was delightful. Fruity, but not overly so, and very pleasant. Daniel liked it too, and we took a bottle.

Hotam Hacarmel Shiraz 2006. This is a very very good Shiraz with lots of spice and rich flavors, and a wonderful finish. At NIS 60 it was a great deal and I took one. I ended up taking a few more Hotam Hacarmel wines home since I made my purchase as things were closing down and they generously gave their open bottles of Cabernet and Merlot. These were quite respectable too, but their Shiraz is definitely the winner.

Mei-Tal Carignan 2008. I am enjoying the come back of Carignan in Israel and this wine is a good example why. Unfortunately my notes just say “very nice” so I can’t offer any more description than that. If I recall correctly the winemaker told me that the grapes are from a 20+ year old vineyard, and that is in keeping with the other high quality Carignans I’ve enjoyed lately. This was a good buy at NIS 60.

Nahmati Sangiovese 2007. This was a pleasant surprise as the wine was lighter and more refreshing than I expected, and very enjoyable in the hot weather. I didn’t buy one since they had packed up and left before I made my way back to their table.

Mivtsar Atlit Cabernet Sauvignon 2008. I got to their table just as they were closing down and this was the only wine they had left. It was very good indeed, but my wine carrier was already full so I didn’t buy any. At NIS 75 it was also one of the higher priced wines at the event. I do plan, however to visit the winery when I have a chance.

Shahar Cabernet Sauvignon 2007. A round, full bodied, well integrated Cabernet. Daniel liked it too and we took a bottle. Quite a good deal at NIS 50.

Solchiner Special Edition 2006. My notes aren’t very clear, but I think this is a Cabernet/Merlot/Shiraz/Carignan blend. In any event, I rather liked it and took a bottle home.

Ze’ev Merlot 2008. As I mentioned before, Merlot is not my favorite variety, but this one is full bodied with lots of nicely balanced fruit.

Considering how much fun this year’s home wineries fair was, I am already looking forward to the next one.

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